By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Junior
The Immaculate Conception Chapel was one of the iconic images I recall from my first unofficial visit to the University of Dayton’s campus the summer before my junior year of high school. It was Saturday night, and my sister was off at dance camp, and my brothers were at Boy Scout camp -which meant I was a lonely child at home for the time being. My parents took me to the Oakwood Club for an once-in-a-lifetime dinner before asking me if I wanted to walk around their alma mater. For them it was a chance to burn-off some calories, but for myself me it was a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at my hometown school for the first time ever.
We strolled through “The Ghetto,” we gazed at the recently constructed Central Mall, and peeked inside a few of my parents’ classrooms in Miriam and St. Joe’s. However nothing grabbed my attention like the chapel did. As I walked through the hallowed doors, I saw nothing but beauty and felt nothing but peace. Stained glass windows and religious artwork were foreign to my religious upbringing. This showed me UD’s commitment to the Catholic faith and Marianist tradition; just like the administration’s decision to renovate and expand it.
I was perplexed and dumbfounded some students were opposing the project and went to the lengths of starting the ‘Save UD Chapel’ campaign on Facebook to petition the construction. While I did understand the anger in regards to the elimination of the Coronation of Mary painting and pulpit from the 1800s, but I just shook my head and figured the frustration could be resolved by looking at the positive changes.
First and foremost the chapel will nearly double in capacity through its expansion and installation of pews. This will not only allow more people to attend Mass on Sundays, but will curb the large crowds on certain holy days during the school year; such as All Saint’s Day, the Immaculate Conception, and Ash Wednesday.
The chapel will be up to par by 21st century standards with an updated and sustainable HVAC, added restrooms, and making all entries handicap accessible. Plus I can’t see how adding a reconciliation chapel and bride’s room on the south side, and creating a Eucharist adoration area and baptismal font are a bad thing.
It might have a more modern look and feel next August, but I believe in the long run this will benefit our campus and community. I think it’s a part of the university’s efforts to stabilize their image as a Catholic school. Why maintain a dinky chapel when you could have a church? The UD community needs it. Athletics, academics, and student life in the Ghetto have been highlighted as the core elements of the school. Maybe the school decided a larger and modern chapel was needed to retain our Catholic identity. The Marianist laid the foundations for what the UD community would be grounded in when the Immaculate Conception Chapel opened in 1869. The same can be said about our current administration’s decision to renovate and expand it.